COMMENTARY: Installing an independent inspector general for Delaware

The following is the second part of a three-part series entitled “Curing Delaware’s Flawed Governance.” To read Sunday’s first part, visit the Opinion section of The third part will appear Tuesday:

According to the USA Debt Clock, Delaware’s current state revenue is approximately $9.135 billion with a state debt of approximately $8.354 billion and rising. Delaware’s Gross Domestic Product is approximately $66.44 billion, yielding a debt to GDP ratio of about 12.72.

Delaware’s population is 940,744 with a debt per citizen of $8,881 and rising. Accordingly, more effective government economy and efficiency measures would serve the greater public interest. Establishment of an independent Office of Inspector General would be a major step in ensuring greater public integrity, transparency and operational efficiency.

Ideally, this would take the form of a new independent, official (elected on a nonpartisan basis), solely responsible to the People of Delaware.

Graham, Dave by .

Dave Graham

The OIG’s office would be vested with a wide array of law enforcement powers, including criminal investigation, execution of search warrants and subpoenas, arrest and prosecution in addition to civil and procedural powers of auditing, forensic accounting, policy review, performance monitoring and analysis.

The office would also have a wide variety of technical capabilities including, but not limited to, risk analysis, technology assessment, operations research, modeling and simulation, and efficiency rating.

This would enable the inspector general, as a conservator of the peace, to prosecute criminal cases of wrongdoing and eliminate an inherent conflict in the Attorney General’s Office of criminally prosecuting public corruption cases and defending the state in civil litigation. The jurisdiction of the IG’s office would also be extended to state vendors and contractors, political subdivisions and nongovernmental organizations receiving state funding.

This would enable the state of Delaware to have a wider array of tools and methods, ranging from full criminal investigation and prosecution to basic policy evaluations and efficiency studies to ensure more honest and cost-effective government operations concentrated in an agency that proactively minimizes waste, deters abuse, and investigates and prosecutes public corruption.

Concrete examples of effective investigations from the New Jersey Office of Inspector General’s 2009 Annual Report: Five-Year Review identified and rescued over 49 million dollars in misspent state funds, resulting in major management personnel changes.

Actions included: investigations of the Meadowlands Commission, Schools Construction Corporation, Schools Development Authority, Department of Correction, Department of Human Services – Division of Addiction Services, Department of the Treasury – Division of Pensions, Department of the Treasury – Division of Taxation, Department of the Treasury – Lottery, Department of Transportation, Sports & Exposition Authority, New Jersey Network, Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, South Jersey Transportation Authority, Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, Cherry Hill School District, Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, West Atlantic City Public Works, Department of Banking and Insurance and the Victims of Crime Compensation Agency.

Von Baumgart by .

Wolfgang von Baumgart

Offices of inspectors general are predominantly supported by favorable cost-benefit analyses. In a five-year period before the New Jersey Office of Inspector General was incorporated into a new Office of the State Comptroller, it cost approximately 7 million dollars and saved New Jersey taxpayers approximately 49 million dollars — a seven-to-one benefit-to-cost ratio. This was achieved with a staff of 16 persons.

Delaware, in contrast, has steadily cut back further on the staffing level of its state auditor that was already too thinly stretched. This action can readily be interpreted as a glaring reflection of its highly questionable political culture.

Establishment of an independent Office of Inspector General in Delaware would go a long way towards restoring public trust by protecting the taxpayer’s money from waste and corruption and creating a more just, open, functionally effective, economical, transparent and efficient government in the greater public interest.

We simply can no longer afford mid-20th century management in a more complexly challenged and strained 21st century political, economic and social environment. The citizens of Delaware deserve and should strongly demand better government. Nothing short of new post-political paradigm is required. Creating a State Office of Inspector General is an integral step in this direction.

The bleak alternative is more waste and corruption, closed government, greater deficit spending, higher taxes, a much larger state debt, continued low public integrity ranking stagnation and depressed economy. The underlying question is: “How much political pressure is required to effect constructive change?”

Editor’s Note: Dave Graham was the 2014 Independent Party of Delaware (IPoD) candidate for attorney general, the 2012 IPoD-endorsed Republican write-in candidate for governor, the 2010 Republcan write-in candidate for attorney general, a 2008 filed Republican candidate for governor, and a candidate in the 2004 Republican primary for governor. He also serves as the treasurer for IPoD.

A Delaware-licensed CPA, in his youth Mr. Graham served as a U S Army sergeant with the First Armored Divison in Germany where he graduated from the NCO Academy. He changed his party registration from Republican to IPoD in April 2014

Wolfgang von Baumgart is the secretary general and chairman emeritus of the Independent Party of Delaware. Mr. von Baumgart is a reporter for the MidLantic Dispatch and Delaware

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